Oscar Wilde in ‘Portrait of An Artist’ remained young forever while the portrait of himself aged instead. Well, it didn’t work for me, as my paintings remain young and fresh and my face is lined with a thousand wrinkles.
When a new Toronto Art Gallery saw my art on the web, they claimed to love it and invited me to show with a group of women artists in an exhibition “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” about feminists artists and how, although 51% of visual artists are women, the level of representation in the Art world does not reflect this, and less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women.
I even wrote a statement for the show and accepted to participate with 3 large works.
My statement was as follows:
“The practice of art is not a gendered activity, the power structure is. It is assumed that men produce culture. This is the assumption of power and privilege. This is exactly what women have never had, the privilege and power to produce culture. As a woman artist I am dealing with my own identity and hopefully its extension into politics, history and spirituality. When I make a painting I am necessarily using the language of our present day social, existential and spiritual culture. My right to do this is still being challenged, because it calls culture into question. But by making my paintings, I am insisting on the viability of my expression, my right to exist on my own terms, to represent myself. In other words, as a woman painter I am taking power where power has been denied me in the past. I am representing myself and opening up to the language of this culture. Paintings are made in my studio as an intimate conversation with myself. I believe it takes courage and vulnerability for a woman painter to be herself and express her ideas on canvas, when she knows that they can often be against the status quo, the generally accepted views of our culture, still dominated by male artists. The painting “Take Off” is about just that theme, women artists being heard and acknowledged. “Reveling” deals with the joy of self-expression and “Captivated” is still about being over-shadowed by the male perception of culture.”
I brought my paintings to the gallery at the allotted time and was greeted by a Generation Z (anyone in their teens and early twenties) young woman fresh from a spa and yoga class, who took one look at me and raised her eyebrows so high they formed perfect triangular peaks. Her rounded eyes spoke volumes about how ancient I must appear to her. I quickly left the paintings by the gallery wall and made a beeline for my car. At home I decided to put her reaction down to my own hypersensitivity and forgot the whole thing, deciding instead to look forward to the gallery opening. I love going to openings, chatting with people and getting feedback on my art.
After all, we as artist all need to communicate with the world.
The night of the opening rolled around…
I donned my usual modest but hip, gallery attire, and proceeded to take the tram there. I arrived at the door with 3 other young people who entered ahead of myself and were warmly greeted by the gallery owner. As I stepped through the door, she saw me and in a very cool and distant voice said hello and proceeded to quickly move away to another, more private part of the gallery followed by all the other young Generation Z women artists, who also gave me the evil eye. I was stunned to say the least and felt genuine remorse for offending these ladies with my lined face.
I scanned the room discovering my large works were hanging in a narrow hall of the coat racks, while their small cartoons were gracing the large empty space of the main gallery, and decided to make a quick getaway.
Obviously something was very wrong here but I still did not want acknowledge that young women (albeit from wealthy families and feeling entitled) could possibly be so discriminatory of women artists simply for their age. It was almost like I offended them with my presence, a reminder of what toll time will take on all of them as well. These women were less interested in the art and certainly not interested in the least about what art had to say. And to describe themselves as feminists was incredulous considering they had no interest in social or political issues and were blatantly ageist.
These were children raised by New Age Mothers who taught them to use spirituality and anything else in the sole service of their own egos. Abundance prayers were rampant as well as yoga to maintain slimness and a nice complexion.
These young women learned to be entrepreneurial, multi-task, be hyper-aware (living in the NOW), technologically reliant and void of human emotions, community sense, compassion for the misfortunate and generally no appreciation of real life. Their make-belief world consists of robotic perfection and success measured in material gain only, quantity no quality… They know all the right slogans and can quote them on their websites, without feeling or experiencing or understanding them…”Death is nothing…nothing has happened, …what is this death but a negligible accident…” writes the gallery owner in a profound moment after her father’s death. Already the grief that should have been there is sucked dry by the words….a momentous experience relegated to a cynical phrase…
Anyway I much prefer the howl of real suffering and grief, so that I can also hear real joy and laughter and not silly twittering behind closed hands.
I pray these young women are only going through a phase and will learn with time to appreciate art, art history and the deeper meanings of life beyond the plastic face of youth. Otherwise more kitsch will be spilled into the marketplace.
Damien Hirst with his skulls stuffed with diamonds, is an apt symbol for the Generation Z face of art at present unfortunately.
About the author
Eva Lewarne was born in Poland and came to Canada after completing high school there. In Canada she attended U of T, then OCAD, majoring in Fine Art. It seems she has been painting forever, and her theme is something she claims a muse dictates through her and that she is not aware of until a body of works emerges. This last body of work Enigma and Illusion are influenced by her many years of meditation practice in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism.
Learn more about her paintings: www.evalewarne.com
and photography: www.evalew.com
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- “It was almost like I offended them with my presence, a reminder of what toll time will take on all of them as well” – a reflection on ageism, femininity and art by Eva Lewarne - March 3, 2016
- Washing Myself in the Words I Never Had the Guts to Say – a reflection on what it means to ‘let go’ in a healthier way - February 29, 2016